Knock Knock, Corporate America — It’s Me, a Black Professional
A new LEVEL series about the trials and tribulations of a Black man navigating company life
There’s nothing quite like the look on a White recruiter’s face when I walk in for a job interview.
The phone screening that comes first is always fine. My name is generic enough to belong to any race, and all they get is my voice — which, real talk, delivers great conversation and a killer vocab. Then, when I walk in, they’re like, “Oh, hi.” They’re shocked. Some are better at covering it up than others, but I always see it.
The thing is, at that point, I either know I’m getting the job, or I know I’m not. And somehow I appreciate the reaction. I don’t have anything to hide. This is me, this is my name, and this is what I have to offer.
Where are you from? The ugliest kind of compliment. When I’m working in White environments, of course, everything’s going to sound different.
Since I’m not gonna show you my LinkedIn page, here’s what you need to know: I’m a Washington state native who’s lived in Seattle for about a decade. I started out in sales, but for the past five years I’ve been overseeing email marketing campaigns. I climbed the corporate ladder, seized internal opportunities, and went from there.
Before I was doing office stuff, I worked in retail, selling high-end shoes to predominantly rich White people. They’d hear the Pacific Northwest accent (or lack thereof) and that great conversation, and they’d invariably break out the classic question. Where are you from? The ugliest kind of compliment. When I’m working in White environments, of course, everything’s going to sound different.
When I first started code-switching, I almost looked at it as an embarrassment because when I’d be around my Black friends, we’d talk in our regular language and codes. I was trying to figure out how I can balance those…